I’m on the Shogun Ladies Dragon Boat Race Team.
I feel SO cool just saying that. I feel cool when my 2 year old says, “Mommy rowing!” and he gets all excited about it.
I feel so cool because before January, I hadn’t consistently worked out since I was pregnant with E…That’s like 7-8 years!
My friend, Katie, convinced me to try out for the Shogun Team with her and I hadn’t even considered something like it before. “You mean I could be one of those women with the muscley arms rowing with a crew of other muscley armed women?” “Me?”
So in January, I began training to join the Air Force Shogun Ladies Dragon Boat Racing Team. It’s a long process, friends. You start with pt (physical training) for a month, then switch to rowing in a pool for a month, then switch to rowing in the East China Sea for 2 months. And most of this is a try out. They don’t actually pick the team until month 3!
This was NOT an easy road for me. I battled my body for the first two months. I almost quit 3 separate times. I had weak hands and arms from years of rock climbing and massage therapy. When I was pregnant with G, I actually had arthritic pain and could barely make a fist. I injured my neck in month one and actually cancelled my practice shirt order bc I was convinced that my body was telling me that I couldn’t do this.
But then I thought, “Why should my body decide FOR me which road I am going to travel?”
So I had a discussion with my body (like every morning) and let it know that I was in charge and that I was going to live this dream so it better get on board.
I worked through the pain, I laid on tennis balls and had my husband jam his elbow into my shoulder blades, I got up at 4am to stretch before practice, and I DID NOT GIVE UP.
And here I am now: days away from the race, feeling stronger than I have maybe ever, sitting 4th from the front on the left side of the Shogun Ladies Dragon Boat Crew. It has been a GREAT ride and I’ve met some wonderful friends as well!
More pictures to come!! Dig!
Here is some history on the Dragon Boat Race in Okinawa from Japan Times:
The annual Naha Dragon Boat Race has been going for almost 600 years
“From morning to evening during the three-day event, crews representing schools, companies, civic organizations and military units compete using the three traditional Naha dragon boats. Symbolically representing the three ancient towns that make up modern Naha, these dragon-prowed vessels with trailing tails are Naha’s dark-green-painted boat, the yellow one of Kume and the black beast of Tomari.
Although dragon-boat racing can be traced back 2,500 years in China — to around the time of the first Olympic Games in Ancient Greece — local legend has it that the fearsome-looking craft first appeared on Okinawa about 600 years ago.
In 1393, Wan-ōso (aka O Oso), the lord of Tomigusuku Castle and nephew of the King of Nanzan — the southernmost of the three kingdoms on Okinawa Island at the time — was a student at the Imperial University in Nanking, China. Having become enamored of the dragon-boat races he saw there during his stay, he is said to have had one built upon his return home to use on the Manko River.
Soon afterward, impressed locals began building similar boats, and when Wan-ōso became King of Nanzan in 1403, he launched the Hari dragon-boat races to impress the gods and ensure good fishing, a bountiful harvest and peace in the kingdom.
Today’s trio of Naha dragon boats are each 15.25 meters long with two rows of 15 seats for the 30 paddlers who sit side by side. Crews also include a drummer (or caller), who sits in the bow, a steersman (or sweep) in the stern, and a flag-puller, who positions himself near the bow to grab the all-important pennant attached to a float and so signal that his boat has finished the race.
In Chinese tradition, the dragon’s eye is painted red prior to a race to bring the creature to life. So if a dragon boat is alive and the paddlers are its wings, the drummer is the dragon’s heart. Like the cox in Western rowing races, he directs the pace, frequency and rhythm of the paddlers’ strokes. Additionally, the steersman controls the course of the boat with a large “sweep oar” on one side of the stern — though Naha dragon boats often use two steersmen.
As for the crews, synchronizing their paddle strokes in time with the drummer’s “heartbeat” is just as important as the speed and power of their strokes.”